On today’s Reach, Dan Parscale is back to talk all about the Yellow Pages. Yellow Pages? Yes! Many audiology and ENT practices still use the Yellow Pages to advertise their business. The question is — should they? Today’s special guest is Gail Williams, a Senior Media Buyer at Audigy.
DANIEL PASCALE: Thanks for joining me this morning back on Reach. It’s been several months since we had you on the show as one of our first guests. And we’re happy to have you back here to share some more of your media buying expertise with us.
We’re going to be asking a couple of questions like, where are you in your practice’s business history, and does that include Yellow Pages and traditional directories right now? What does that look like for the future? And if you haven’t started using it, should you even be using that service to begin with.
So we’ve had conversations before about the Yellow Pages, and the question is always, are the Yellow Pages dead? Is it a format and a product that just is on its way out? And I believe the last time that I talked to you, your assessment was, it’s not quite there, but it’s almost there.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Right. There had been a lot of speculation. A lot of marketers say that they wouldn’t go into the Yellow Pages or that the Yellow Pages is a dinosaur, that it’s a dying breed.
And all the indications are that it is on a steep decline. It’s like, I think 5% every year that they’re seeing it decline from 2015, and they’re projecting that through 2020. So what would that be, 20%, 25% within that time, within five years. So that’s quite a decline.
DANIEL PASCALE: So I understand that internally, we are not necessarily pushing for people to engage in Yellow Pages advertising so much, and maybe even trying to get them to pull out if they are doing some steady advertising.
GAIL WILLIAMS: There are a lot of placements that can be pretty expensive monthly. I’ve seen upwards of $1,000 to almost $2,000 a month for printed Yellow Pages advertising. So a lot of that is cost-wise, and then we also look by market to see what the competition looks like in their headings.
And then based on that, whether their strategy should be, or how much of a decrease they should be looking at. But then it also frees up some budget for them. And then they’re able to then use that either in something else that they’re seeing a strong return on, or what we like to also see is an expansion into their digital products.
DANIEL PASCALE: So why do you prefer digital? This is obviously something that I would automatically think too, because digital is my focus in marketing. I would be inclined to allocate budget there. Why would you specifically suggest that as opposed to, I don’t know, investing more in newspaper print or magazine, or billboards, or anything like that?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Well, billboards and magazines, they’re great. But really they’re more of a branding vehicle. Of course TV and radio, they’re more branding also. It’s just, it’s going to take quite a long time to run on those kinds of media to really get any sort of return back on it.
With digital of course, it’s much like with the printed Yellow Pages directory, where someone will go there to find something. It’s not like you’re advertising something and you’re trying to reach out and grab an audience and bring them in. They’re coming to find you, or your products and your services. So, online, it makes a lot more sense to transition when you’re talking about searching, of course, for a reference.
DANIEL PASCALE: So one way that I know that you have described this to me off the recording is that digital search– Google, let’s just say– is kind of the modern equivalent of searching in the Yellow Pages. It’s kind of the next step in that. So if those are related, are there other services that Yellow Pages has opened up or other directories like this have opened up in the digital realm? And do they make sense as part of this developing strategy?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Well, they do. They have offerings now, digital. And they have their, what’s called IYP, Internet Yellow Pages. And the only thing is, is that if you were going to expand and go into that much more, then you’re really promoting their brand. You’re promoting, say, YP.com.
You’re not so much promoting your own website, which would be best– well, for a number of reasons, including your own SEO. It would help with your Google return results and your relevancy. So yeah, they are offering that a lot. But like I say, you have the problem where you can’t make changes very quickly because you really have to get a ticket through them more and it takes a lot longer, the process. You’d be waiting for a while, followup is really complicated.
DANIEL PASCALE: Can I interrupt and ask, what does the IYP service look like? Is it very comparable to a standard Yellow Pages listing, or is it more like a display ad or something altogether different?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Well, it does look like a listing. They sometimes have– well, it depends on how much you want to spend, I guess, because you can have just a basic listing of the name of your business and your phone number, or you can have your website added to the listing for a premium. Or you can pay more and have perhaps like a video added to it or some photos added to it. But they’re always wanting you to pay more of a premium for all of that.
Also, they usually come with an annual agreement. So if you were going to try to run something and see how well it was returning, what the response was, and say four to five months or something, you can’t get out of anything. You’re locked in. You’re locked in for an annual agreement just like you were with the printed Yellow Pages.
DANIEL PASCALE: That’s unusual compared to a lot of other digital advertising, and I don’t know this, but I’m going to guess that it’s a pullover from the way that they do business in print.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Exactly. And they want to get that wrapped up and have it kind of like, rolling for a year so that they don’t really have to make a lot of changes and go in and make a lot of edits. Which is fine from their business standpoint, but from the standpoint of our membership or any business owner, then you want to be able to make changes quickly, to optimize quickly. So yeah, it doesn’t really turn on a dime very well.
DANIEL PASCALE: So I’m getting the sensation that you do not advocate for rolling over traditional print [INAUDIBLE] stuff into their digital services, but into something altogether different then.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Sometimes they’ll make packages, they’ll bundle. They will take their printed products and their digital products and make a package for you. And if you were to say, I don’t want your digital offering, I just want your printed offering and I’m going to do digital elsewhere, then all of a sudden the print rates go way up. And so they do all that bundling so that they can also try to transition into their new products.
DANIEL PASCALE: It sounds like every time Comcast asks me to sign up for a phone line so I can decrease the rate of my cable service.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Exactly right. It’s the same kind of thing.
DANIEL PASCALE: And I don’t need a phone line. If you’re out there, Comcast. So I know that historically, a lot of audiologists have used this.
And to kind of summarize the rationale behind that as I can see it, as a millennial, is that the demographic that is typically using this the most, the Yellow Pages, the big book, is our target demographic, they’re the 65-plus demographic, etc. That’s changing a little bit, but is that still true? Is that still the main demographic that’s using the Yellow Pages?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Absolutely. And of course, it’s going down. They’ve said that since– well, it’s projected, I believe, from 2015 through 2020, it’s expected to go down, usage by at least 5% each year.
So it’s on a decline. In the whole scheme of things, it is a rather steep decline. But it’s still not an overnight decline.
So I would say if someone has been advertising in the Yellow Pages for decades upon decades, then they’re probably pretty dyed-in-the-wool with it for a while. But it is time, of course, for people to start making the transition over to the other place where people search for them. And that’s online.
DANIEL PASCALE: Yeah, I can imagine. As you say, they could be dyed-in-the-wool, and there would be some hesitancy. If it’s not necessarily broken, why fix it, even if there is starting to be a decreasing return rate on that?
So what is it that you think when you see someone who’s still using Yellow Pages, and you’re starting to see these decreasing return rates? What’s the first thing you think of in terms of should they stay with this at all and maybe decrease their ad revenue, or should they move to a different direction altogether? What’s your strategy?
GAIL WILLIAMS: As a media buyer, I think about the time that it takes these business owners, who they aren’t necessarily wanting to do marketing. Some enjoy it, some don’t. But they’re audiologists that we deal with, and they want to help people. They don’t want to spend hours poring over the directory placements and the complicated agreements that they send to them and everything.
But when I see it, what I like to look at first is what size are they? And I want to see the actual directory page. I want to see under the headings of audiologists and under hearing aids and assistive devices in our industry. And I want to look and see what their competition is doing.
I had a member that I had worked with a few years back, who had a full page ad and was the only ad in that heading. And so I was actually very upset, frankly, with the publisher at the time, because it was a total oversell. And so I spoke with this member, and I got them to downsize and over that year, I was able to shave over $16,000 from their marketing spend on Yellow Pages. And so then I recommended of course, for him to take that, since he was comfortable paying that, and take that and leverage it for his online position.
DANIEL PASCALE: So you’re able to use the same amount of budgeting, just you want to allocate it where it’s necessary. You said that this person had no competition with their ad?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Absolutely none.
DANIEL PASCALE: Yeah, that is overkill then, isn’t it?
GAIL WILLIAMS: It really is. And you can look in there and the way that they lay out the Yellow Pages is pretty interesting. They go by size first, whoever’s paying the most and getting the biggest size there at the top of the page. And then if everyone’s the same equal size on the page, then they go by seniority in that size. So if they have three people at about a third of the size an ad, whoever’s been in that size the longest goes at the very top.
So sometimes whenever someone wants to go down in size, then they’re immediately going to go under their competition. And we just have to see, how important is that to them? On one hand. It’s like yeah, you want to be ahead of your competition.
And sometimes I think as a marketer, I think, well, let my competition waste their money. And I don’t care so much if that’s where they want to put their spend, I’m going to also then use the savings that I draw from this. And I’m going to go into another effort and find some more audience over here.
DANIEL PASCALE: So depending on the circumstance of the practice and how they are seeing their ROI with using the Yellow Pages, or their competition’s use of the Yellow Pages, they have to make a decision on what is their best strategy for whether or not they should be in the Yellow Pages? What are the alternatives for them if they decide that they want to reallocate some of their budget?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Well really, I think the best answer to that is definitely online. So many of them, they’ve been so used to using the printed directory that they may feel a little intimidated. It’s like, just stick with what you know, kind of thing. It’s like, it’s easier just to do the renewal. And it’s like, I haven’t really tried the digital, I know I’ve got to get there eventually, but they’re a little intimidated because they’re not really familiar with it yet. We see all the time that there are statistics telling us that the fastest growing users of the internet are seniors.
So with the decline, we can actually deduce. We can actually make that assumption that OK, there’s a decline over here with printed directories where seniors tend to use those. And then we see an increase over here. So we know where that audience is kind of going.
DANIEL PASCALE: Right. Facebook is another situation too, where their largest growing demographic for a few years has been the demographic that was using Yellow Pages so much.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Absolutely, I say it all the time. I use personal reference and I talk about my dad. And my dad does a few things online.
He likes to look at EBay, he checks his email, and he loves Facebook, loves it. So that’s a really good place to go. And it’s fairly affordable to advertise on Facebook. And so that’s a really great way to go.
DANIEL PASCALE: We’ve already compared the traditional Yellow Pages book to digital trends. And I think we’ve made a pretty good case for why you should be at least considering digital as part of your marketing strategy. But one of the things that we know for sure is that the people who are primarily using the traditional Yellow Pages are in our target demographic of 65-plus. So that sounds like a pretty important thing to remember if you are actually advertising in the Yellow Pages. You know that if anyone is going to be reading your listing, they’re very likely to be someone you want to be targeting.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Right. I believe I was looking at some numbers here recently, and I believe that the usage for Yellow Pages for millennials, it was under 2% that had even cracked open a Yellow Pages book within like, a year, I think was the timeline. And it was like, over 70% in 65-plus.
So definitely, and as those in their golden years pass on and as the boomers get up in age, it’s just all going to transition as we see right now with being more online. And so it will definitely transition, I believe in the coming years. But yeah, it definitely depends on depends on your age demographic.
DANIEL PASCALE: Bottom line is, you’re not crazy if you are advertising in Yellow Pages, but the writing has been on the wall for a while that this is not going to continue to be your primary ROI, your primary source of leads for your practice. And it’s happening very quickly, that change.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Yes, yes, relatively quickly. When we say quickly, we’re not talking like an asteroid hitting and killing off dinosaurs. It’s not just going to be an overnight thing. But in the whole scope of marketing, yeah, it’s pretty quickly. And the writing is definitely on the wall, and it has been for some time that a business is very wise to get their digital position in order.
DANIEL PASCALE: So the one thing we haven’t really touched base on too much yet is cost, money.
GAIL WILLIAMS: It always comes back to money.
DANIEL PASCALE: Every day, every day. Let’s look at the bottom line then. So is there really going to be a big financial spend difference between traditional Yellow Pages and a more digital focus? And that doesn’t have to just include what you’re paying for the service. It can also be your ROI. How do they compare to each other?
GAIL WILLIAMS: It depends on market size and how large the placement is. But I’ve had members that have saved a lot, it could be $20,000, it could be $50 a month. But really, to take any sort of savings and put it, say, into digital, it really wouldn’t take that much to actually make a difference.
DANIEL PASCALE: That makes sense. There’s no guarantees in marketing, period, right?
GAIL WILLIAMS: Yeah. Oh, we wish, we wish.
DANIEL PASCALE: But it sounds like the benefits of your opportunities are big enough that you still continue to think that this transition is an important one.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Oh yeah, definitely.
DANIEL PASCALE: OK. Well, this brings us to the part of the show where we try to wrap things up. We are going to put the spotlight on you once again, Gail. You know the drill, what are the top three takeaways from today’s conversation?
GAIL WILLIAMS: First of all, the Yellow Pages still shows signs of life, it’s breathing, but it’s getting very labored. Primarily, the signs of life though, are shown by the 65-plus audience. They still have a senior audience.
Number two, the usage is on a steady decline. So really, the trends are showing that really, a business owner should be thinking about it sooner than later about transitioning their presence out of the printed directory. Which leads me to number three, that there are several digital efforts such as paid search, also known as pay per click, or Facebook ads, which are pay for performance-based. So the business owner only pays when someone actually takes an action or engages with their ads.
DANIEL PASCALE: Sounds great. Three great takeaways here. Thank you again, Gail, for coming on Reach, and it’s been a pleasure having you.
GAIL WILLIAMS: Thank you, it’s been my pleasure.
DANIEL PASCALE: Thank you for listening to Reach. As always, make sure to subscribe to our show via iTunes or Google Play, access full transcripts for every show by visiting Attainable.fm/Reach, or just say hello by dropping me a line at Dan@Attainable.fm. We’d also appreciate your feedback on Reach by leaving us a review on iTunes or Google Play.
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